My PRK Experience Part 2: Surgery

I had corrective eye surgery done a few months ago so my eyes have already stabilized. The next few posts are my experience and will be posted weekly (hopefully) so that you don’t need to wait months to find out what it was like for me. I also go through what I think was great and not so great about my experience with the place I went to – Coal Harbour Eye Centre.

April 15, 2015

I made my surgery appointment for Coal Harbour Eye Centre (CHEC) in downtown. You’re told not to wear contacts a week prior to the surgery since contacts affect the shape of your cornea.

My surgery was on a very sunny afternoon of April 15, 2015. I’d taken the day off work and tried to relax. In general you’re told not to go to work the day of the surgery and, if you’re getting PRK, to take at least a week off afterward. I’d already told my boss I’d be off for a week, possibly longer. When one of our grad students had laser eye surgery done she was off for more than a week, she was considered a slow healer. I’d prepped my workplace that I may be out of work longer. Luckily my boss is pretty good about these things. My mom offered to come with me but I told her no since all she’d do would be sitting in the waiting room for an hour during a minor surgery.

Before the surgery, CHEC sent me a booklet that was partially about legalities, risks, etc. On the day of the surgery I signed off on the agreement. I went through eye tests again and met with Dr. Kirzner. There was an opportunity to ask questions but again, no real info without prompting. The “surgical counsellor” went over the medicated eye drop schedule with me which is very heavy for the first few weeks then tapers off. It’s a huge pain in the ass to have to remember to put in the eye drops every few hours. I had to set an alarm to remind myself of the drops. The counsellor also measured my heart rate with one of those finger monitors. I was oddly calm that day considering I was going to have someone touch and laser my eyeballs. I wasn’t offered the “mild sedative” that they say you could get on the website and I was a bit too shy to ask. LOL. If I really were freaked out I might have asked for one. I also wasn’t given a prescription for any pain I might have felt afterward but they did give me a number of packages of numbing eye drops if my eyes did start to hurt. I read that using the numbing drops can slow down your healing so I was pretty determined not to use them unless the pain became unbearable.

I sat in a separate “pre-op waiting room” waiting for the person before me to finish up. There were no videos of the surgery so I didn’t know what to expect. Depending on the situation, I may be one of those ultra prepared people who wants to know exactly everything that happens or one of those need-to-know-basis people. For the surgery I decided I didn’t want to know beforehand which worked for me.

The surgery was the only day that I spoke with Dr. Kirzner. I’ve seen him walk around the clinic when I go for my follow-ups but that’s about it. I had my ultra sexy hairnet on (it reminded me of when I worked at a pharmaceuticals lab) and was ready. Walking into surgery, Dr. Kirzner’s assistant told me what to expect – that I’d be lying on a movable table that would place me under the laser – the laser was the red light above me. I expected iodine to be rubbed around my eyes but it was surprising to me was that there was no cleansing of the eye area.

So began the surgery. Dr. Kirzner has a very calming tone of voice – some people will undoubtedly say he’s monotoned but that suits me just fine. I don’t like high-pitched, excitable voices during stressful situations. Also, his calmness just said to me that he’d done this many times and knows what he’s doing. It must have been so routine for Dr. K but he was good at telling me what he was doing.

First my left eye was covered then a few numbing eye drops in my right eye and a speculum was put in place to hold my eyelids open. That wasn’t comfortable. I kept trying to blink and when it finally sunk in that like resistance, blinking is futile, I gave up. There was a bit of pressure on my eyeballs as a ring was placed around it, then he scrubbed my eyeball. It didn’t hurt the slightest but I did feel some pressure. I’m a tough-it-out kind of person but I told myself that at the slightest panic or fear I’d have to say something. Neither happened. After the scrubbing I had to stare at the red light without moving my eyes even the merest of millimetres or the laser will stop. It got a bit difficult to keep looking at the light because there was also a green light and the two lights merged. Here’s something no one ever tells you about: you go blind for the barest of moments (a second or so). The only reason I didn’t panic is because my friend, Barbara (I’ve mentioned her in my blog before), had surgery on her eyes as well though I don’t recall what for, and mentioned that she had a moment of panic when she went blind. Her doctor seemed to forget to tell her about that so when she told him, he laughed and said that was normal. Barbara gave me a heads up about that.

The laser makes a buzzing and clicking noise. I wanted to laugh during surgery because it  reminded me of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation when Riker was abducted and experimented on by aliens.

RikerMy eyes felt a bit warm while the laser did it’s thing and then Dr. K warned me that I would smell “burning hair.” I kept thinking, “Dude, that’s not burning hair I’m smelling. That’s my eyeball!” That took about 45 seconds (at least that’s what I heard Dr. K’s assistant say). Then my eye was flushed with cold water (brain freeze!) and a contact lens was placed in the eye to protect it while the epithelium regenerated.

On to the left eye! The speculum was removed from my right eye and placed on my left. The same procedure was repeated. The contact lens wasn’t placed properly though and Dr. K had to do try again. Once that was done with, I sat up and while everything was still blurry, it was a vast improvement from my eyesight before. Hallelujah! The entire procedure was short, I think from the time I stepped into surgery and stepped out it was only 15 minutes. I didn’t even bother to take my jacket off, that’s how quick it was.


This is a video of someone else’s surgery but it’s the same process I experienced. I couldn’t gather the courage to watch this video until about 3 months after I had the surgery.


I was next taken into post-op where I sat in a dark room for 15 minutes. I think I was the third to last surgery of the day. I chatted with the woman who had her surgery done immediately after me. She told me she was actually going on a month-long sojourn to Asia and that’s why she wanted to get the surgery done. Dr. K. came back to check that the contacts in my eyes fit then I was free to go.

My sister and her husband work downtown so they came to pick me up afterward. I wore the latest style of sunglasses for those who are too sensitive to light. I have a photo of me wearing the sunglasses but it isn’t my hottest moment. Ha ha. I wore the sunglasses all day, even in the house. I was able to watch TV and even text my friends (one immediately texted back with “STOP TEXTING AND GET SOME REST!”).

My eyes felt completely fine though toward the end of the day the contacts were annoying me since I normally didn’t wear contacts. My eyes weren’t too dry either because of the numerous eye drops I had to place in my eyes.

What annoyed me about this experience was that CHEC gave me two sets of post-op instructions that had different info/drugs listed and was confusing. Also, I had to pick up extra preservative-free eye drops. I wish they had told me before the surgery because I wasn’t able to do it afterward. They gave me 4 packages of Bion Tears but I had to send my sister to Costco to get more for me.

My Advice:
Before (and after) the surgery, take Fish Oil with the highest Omega-3 count you can find. I don’t know how effective it was but it’s supposed to keep dry eyes to a minimum. I took the pills and my eyes weren’t as dry as I had expected (that might have been a coincidence). Ask for the eye drop schedule in advance so that you can review it. Trying to read it right after surgery was difficult unless you have someone who can read it for you.

The day of the surgery, take a shower. It’s kind of your last one for about week. Stay as calm as possible the day of your surgery. The surgery itself doesn’t hurt, you can’t feel anything. I think being tense makes the pain worse. Prepare for the worst but don’t expect it to happen. Have as much audio ready as possible. I had a lot of podcasts, audio books, and music downloaded onto my iPad. Specifically with audio books, make sure you have a variety. I started listening to two but realized I couldn’t continue because the voice actors were grating on my ears. You will be bored during the week you can’t watch/see anything. I’m a writer so I used the time to think about scenes and characters. I’d also bought a ukulele a few months prior thinking I would learn enough by the time of the surgery to be able to practice in the dark and with my eyes closed. My eyes were sensitive to light but not uberly so. I’ve read some that some people couldn’t even have a nightlight. My parents’ house has a lot of light and I was fine with the sunglasses I got from CHEC. Most of all, rest! You get a week away from whatever your regular routine is, make the most of it! 🙂


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